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About Substantial Films

Substantial Films was founded by Tom Sands in 2009 to produce a series of uplifting documentaries filmed in remote parts of the world - the Birds Head peninsula in Indonesia, the jungles of Hampi in India, and several countries in West Africa. These documentaries are currently available on YouTube along with several others, where Hampi - Valley of the Kings has racked up 1.8 million views. In 2012, Tom decided to focus on feature film projects with his dad Mick Sands and Phil Harris later joined the team as the lead producer.

Tom Sands director and producer at Substantial Films

Tom Sands


In 2010, Tom dropped out of film school and cut his teeth shooting and editing a series of documentaries filmed in eight different countries. He went on to direct music videos and commercials, and in 2014 produced and directed his first feature film - Backtrack. Since then, he has directed four more films including Decrypted. He is a hands-on film-maker, combining on-set producing and directing duties with camera operating, and maintaining close involvement in all aspects of post-production.
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Mick Sands writer and producer at Substantial Films

Mick Sands


Mick had a successful career as an advertising copywriter at top London agencies like JWT, DDB and Leagas Delaney, where he wrote more than 60 broadcast TV commercials and won all of the major industry awards, including golds and silvers at D&AD, BTAA and Cannes. He was then commissioned to write the screenplays Millennium Man for Parallel Pictures and The Red King for Warner Bros. He has had screenplays optioned by Gary Kurtz (producer of Star Wars), David Kennaway (producer of The Rocket Post) and Imaginary Films. Mick has written all of the films that Substantial Films has produced and many of those which are in development. He also takes an active role in developing scripts from other writers.

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Phil Harris producer at Substantial Films

Phil Harris


Phil was a successful music entrepreneur, running several businesses including online and FM radio stations, club promotion, a record label and online/high street music retail. He found his way into the film industry by directing music videos and teamed up with director Tom Sands and writer Mick Sands in 2013 to become the lead producer at Substantial Films. Since then, he has produced four feature films, securing major festival showings and global distribution. An entrepreneurial spirit combined with real on-the-ground experience explains his reputation for bringing ambitious projects in on time and on budget. 

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In 2013, we made our first feature film, Backtrack (AKA Nazi Vengeance), a psychological horror starring Julian Glover (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Game of Thrones), which was picked up by Netflix in the UK. It was also picked up in North America, Australia and New Zealand, Germany, Scandinavia and across Asia.


Our second film The Holly Kane Experiment is a dark psychological thriller with Nicky Henson (Syriana, Vera Drake) and in 2017 it was released in North America, the UK, Germany and across Asia through 108 Media, following festival screenings at St Louis International Film Festival, Independent Days FilmFest, Wicked Film Festival and Anchorage International Film Festival. It’s currently on Amazon Prime in the UK and ITN Distribution have picked up remaining world rights.


Our third film Rupert, Rupert & Rupert is a bittersweet comedy-drama about an actor with multiple personalities. It was released in the US and UK in 2019 by Global Digital Releasing and was nominated for Best Comedy at the National Film Awards in 2020.


Our fourth film False Witness is a US-set psychological thriller, which was picked up by House of Film and distributed by High Octane Pictures in the US and Central City Media in the UK.


In 2021, we completed Decrypted, a dark comedy set in the world of the intelligence agencies starring Sophia Myles (Transformers: Age of Extinction), David Hoflin (Z: The Beginning of Everything), Amanda Abbington (Sherlock), Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean), Don Gilet (The Stranger), Talisa Garcia (Willow) and Akie Kotabe (The Man in the High Castle).

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